Saturday, April 5, 2008

Kanon and Clannad

So, you know those topics that you have something to say about, but you don't want to admit that you have something to say about them? Well, this is one of those. I think both these animes are interesting to discuss and analyze, but I would much prefer not to ever admit that I'd ever even heard of these, let alone downloaded them and watched them in their entirety. I mean, discussing these things isn't just admitting how lame I am (which I feel like I do decently often, so I don't really mind), but is basically proof that the only thing I put in my description of myself isn't even accurate (my description says that I'm a guy, but I can't imagine a guy actually watching these unless he had some really serious obsessions with Japanese schoolgirls and high school dramas...and I would prefer admitting that I'm not actually a guy to admitting that I have an obsession with Japanese schoolgirls and high school dramas...but that's probably why it's called denial).

Anyways, I started watching Clannad, then Kanon, then Clannad again, on the recommendation of the dude from Megatokyo (why do I keep admitting that I read that?). Both these series were made by the same animation studio and are based upon some semi-old Japanese highschool dating sims made by some other company (the name is something like Key, but it doesn't matter). Anyways, the Megatokyo dude recommended Clannad and Kanon while they were still releasing Clannad, so I checked it out and thought it seemed kind of interesting and then I wasted some time by watching Kanon, and then went back and watched Clannad (actually, I haven't finished it yet, I think I have like three episodes left, but I'm going to assume those episodes don't change my opinion of the show at all).

I mentioned the order that I watched them in, because it's actually relevant, by the way. When I started watching Clannad, I found it interesting because I liked the main character (who is almost the only guy we see, besides his stupid sidekick friend who can never get any girl to give him a second glance and only exists as fodder for jokes). I was impressed because the main character was actually a kind of cool dude. He was angsty and somewhat depressed, but also sarcastic and funny and more than a little mean (so, yes, he reminded me of myself). However, since at this point there were only two episodes, that's about all I knew about Clannad before I switched to Kanon.

Upon switching to Kanon, the first thing I noticed was that this main character was not nearly as interesting as the guy from Clannad. Basically, he had no personality at all. Keeping in mind that this anime originated from a Japanese high school dating sim, this made sense. I imagine the main character in the game is also pretty much a blank slate, which allows the player to imprint himself in place of the character as a way to experience the game. This doesn't really work for the TV show, though, since I prefer main characters that actually have personalities (obviously, I actually prefer TV shows where the main character has a similar personality as my own, so that I can imprint on him as a way to experience the show, but that is totally not the point).

However, while the game was targeted at boys (well, male nerds, at least), the anime is clearly targeted at girls (and guys who are obsessed with moe or whatever...and, yes, the fact that I just used the term most likely means that I'm one, but it's not true, I swear). They structured the series to follow this guy as he develops relationships with, like, 4 or 5 different girls, one at a time, and helps them with with their problems and then moves on to the next one. Each one gets her own 4-6 episode arc, where she is almost really the main character.

These girls, of course, each have unique and exciting personalities, which almost clash with the main character's own lack of such things. This makes sense, though, because I'm sure the game gave these girls those big personalities because that's what their audience wanted (probably along with some cute outfits and things like that, but the personalities are a big part of it too, I imagine, since I'm clearly not part of the target audience of the game). Ironically, the female characters all having fully developed stories and personalities fits really well with the target audience of the tv show (girls, which apparently I've decided to admit being).

So, the experience of watching Kanon is a little odd. And, well, I didn't particularly like it either. Of all the girls, there was only one that I actually liked (she had a sword and fought monsters...okay, I guess I kind of liked his cousin too, but that's just because I'm a sucker for blue hair), and the guy ends up with the least interesting and most obnoxious of the girls he interacted with. All in all, it was interesting to watch and contemplate about what worked and what didn't as the creators used the same story but targeted an entirely different audience, but it wasn't enjoyable. And this was largely because of the protagonist, which made me excited for Clannad.

But, then I watched Clannad. Clannad clearly makes a bigger effort to step away from its game roots. For one, like I mentioned early, the main character has a fun personality and can actually carry the show. Also, it doesn't really follow the individual arcs for each of the girls that I assume you would get if you pursued the girls in the game it's based off of. Instead, it primarily follows the arc of a primary love interest throughout, while sporadically inserting varying amounts of the story arcs of the other potential love interests from the game. Some of them seem to get the majority of their arcs, while others merely hint at what could have been. The idea behind this is that the story as a whole is meant to be more cohesive, I think. Personally, I liked the other strategy more.

This structuring is just frustrating because unless you actually like the primary girl (and she is, once again, of course, the least interesting and most obnoxious love interest), then the main character doesn't pay that much attention to the girl you like. Even when we do enter a multi-episode arc where he takes care of some girl, he's not doing it out of interest in her. He pretty much only has eyes for the primary love interest from the very beginning (although, I guess there are still 3 more episodes where he could change his mind...if I wish hard enough).

This sucks, though, because we get all these fully realized "meet cute"-type interactions, but they can't go anywhere because the main character only has eyes for the one girl. In the other structure, each girl actually gets to be the primary love interest for a couple episodes, before he moves on (and eventually finally settles on the least interesting and most obnoxious girl). Admittedly, since this is a tv show for general audiences, his cousin doesn't get to be a primary love interest for any time (but she does have her own arc in the game, and they do at least hint at it in the show).

On a side note, I find it interesting that the games' plots, where a guy meets a girl in need and finds a way to help her and eventually realize herself, was done to fulfill the fantasies of the shut-in male players, while the TV show is able to take that same fantasy and make it a chick flick, because it's presenting this prince of sorts who arrives and helps the girls to reach her potential or whatever (an odd empowerment fantasy of both sexes, I guess). Of course, this breaks down a little bit because in the game, the girls reward the guy by sleeping with him (I assume...also, I hear this caused a little controversy due to the plot arc with his cousin), but in the female fantasy version of it, she doesn't have to give him anything in return (or rather, she wants to, but he isn't interested, he was merely helping her).

Also, and here's where Clannad almost certainly is diverging from its game roots, we see the guy's relationships with these girls start improving him (which shows the TV show's creators are doing a better job of satisfying the target demographic with additional empowerment fantasies). He goes from being the rather angsty and somewhat depressed, but sarcastic and funny to the point of mean, guy to something a lot tamer. They try to motivate him to do something with his life and to rebuild his relationship with his family and to stop playing cruel jokes on them. As the show is coming to an end, I find myself missing what he was before the girls started improving him. But, well, I'm not in the target demographic, so it's not like my dissatisfaction matters. However, I'm would be fairly surprised if the guy had to do anything like that in the game (but, maybe it's not crazy, I don't know).

Anyways, I watched both these shows. They were interesting. At times, they were actually enjoyable, well, Clannad was at least. I'm not sure Kanon was ever really able to transcend from an interesting thought exercise to true entertainment, but Clannad's scenes where the main character is being mean were very funny. So, I've admitted it. And, well, maybe I can on being a guy (I would like that). I'm still not admitting any obsessions with schoolgirls or anything like that, though. Just to be clear.

That is all.


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